Nanogold loaded nitrogen doped tio2 photocatalysts for the degradation of aquatic pollutants under sun light by fiona_messe



                        Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped
                   TiO2 Photocatalysts for the Degradation
                     of Aquatic Pollutants Under Sun Light
                Zahira Yaakob1, Anila Gopalakrishnan2, Silija Padikkaparambil1,
                          Binitha N. Narayanan2,* and Resmi M. Ramakrishnan2
                                         1Department of Chemical and Process Engineering,
                                           Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment,
                                        Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor,
                                   2Department of Chemistry, Sree Neelakanta Government

                                              Sanskrit College Pattambi, Palakkad, Kerala,

1. Introduction
Along with the rapid development of industry, various issues related to energy and
environment got generated which are now grown into a significant level. The hazardous
waste materials with high concentrations are being discharged directly or indirectly into
water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds. The World Bank
estimates that 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and
treatment causing a major global problem. A facile and cheap method for removing
inorganic and organic pollutants from wastewater has much relevance in modern world.
Dyes are an important class of aquatic pollutants. Its complexity and variety makes it
difficult to find a unique treatment procedure that entirely covers the effective elimination
of all types of dyes. Particularly, biochemical oxidation suffers from significant limitations
since most dyestuffs commercially available have been intentionally designed to resist
aerobic microbial degradation and also they may get converted into toxic or carcinogenic
compounds. The physical methods such as flocculation, reverse osmosis and adsorption on
activated charcoal are nondestructive and merely transfer the pollutant to other media, thus
causing secondary pollution (Binitha, 2009, as cited in Belver, 2006) Heterogeneous
photocatalysis with various oxide semiconductor photocatalysts is an efficient and rapidly
expanding purification technique for water and air. Semiconductor-oxides are a popular
class of materials because of their functionalities and applications in the field of
photocatalysis and generation of photoelectricity.
There has been greater attention on the photocatalytic activity of nanocrystalline TiO2 after
the discovery of photodecomposition of water on Titania [Ali, 2009; Hao, 2008; Parida, 2007;

*   Corresponding Author
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Xiang, 2008; Dambar, 2007; Wang, 2004; Colmenares, 2006; Kolenko, 2005; Shengli, 2006;
Baiju, 2007]. Titania (titanium oxide) is considered as one of the most promising
heterogeneous photocatalyst owing to the facts such as high photocatalytic activity, strong
oxidizing power, low cost, chemical and thermal stability, resistance to photo corrosion and
non-toxicity. In addition, TiO2 possess favorable optoelectronic properties which makes it a
well accepted photocatalyst for the degradation of various environmental pollutants
(Meenal, 2009; Pirkanniemi; 2002).

Fig. 1. Degraded methylene blue solution under 1 h exposure to sun light over N doped
TiO2 and Au loaded N doped TiO2

However, the high intrinsic band gap energies of major crystalline forms of TiO2 (3.2 eV
for anatase phase and 3.0 eV for rutile) makes them effective photocatalysts only when the
wavelengths of light is shorter than 387 nm. Thus only a small part of solar light is
harvested if we use bare TiO2 photocatalysts (Haijian, 2008, as cited in Fujishima &
Honda, 1972; Li, 2000). It is known that the UV part of the solar spectrum accounts only
for about 4% of the incoming solar energy while the major part of the rest is visible light
(Binitha, 2010). It is therefore of great significance to adjust the band structure of TiO2 to
improve the photoreaction rate for the efficient use of solar energy for photocatalysis.
There are several studies in recent years attempting the incorporation of the visible range
of solar spectrum also in the photocatalytic process, which include dye sensitization,
metal ion doping, nonmetal doping, etc. (Meenal, 2009, as cited in Choi, 1994; Shockley &
Read, 1952; Asahi, 2001). The incorporation of specific dopants in TiO2 should improve
the efficiency of the photocatalytic behavior by creating new band structures or by
suppressing the recombination of photogenerated electron–hole pairs resulting in
improved quantum efficiency (Zhiqiao, 2009).
The most feasible method for improving the photocatalytic performance of titania are
considered as doping with metals as well as non metals. Recent researches concerning TiO2-
doped with nonmetal elements such as nitrogen (Yohei, 2004, as cited in Sato, 1986; Asahi,
2001; Morikawa, 2001), fluorine (Yohei, 2004, as cited in Hatori, 1998), sulfur (Yohei, 2004 as
cited in Umebayashi, 2002) and carbon (Yohei, 2004, as cited in Khan, 2002) have been
reported. Among the different anion dopants, nitrogen is observed to be the most effective
one and is widely studied.
Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts
for the Degradation of Aquatic Pollutants Under Sun Light                                     159

                                                         O2                       CO2 + H2O

                                                                 .        +
                                                         OH          +H
                             +     band
                                                  H2O                POLLUTANT    CO2 + H2O

Fig. 2. Band structure of semiconductor titania: Making it suitable for pollutant degradation

Sato (Sato, 1986) was the first person who reported N-doped titania by annealing the
mixtures of a commercial titanium hydroxide and NH4Clor NH4OH, which showed higher
photocatalytic activity in the visible-light region. Asahi et al. (Asahi, 2001) reported that
nitrogen-doped titania could induce the visible-light activity in which nitrogen atoms
substitute a few oxygen atoms (0.75%), and the doped nitrogen was responsible for the
visible-light sensitivity. These two studies had kicked off a new area of research to extend
the absorbance of TiO2 into visible-light region by means of nitrogen-doping. There has
been several methods reported thereafter for the preparation of N doped TiO2, such as high
temperature treatment of TiO2 under NH3 flow (Hao, 2008, as cited in Asahi, 2001; Irie, 2003;
Diwald, 2004), hydrolytic process (Hao, 2008 as cited in Ihara, 2003; Noda, 1986; Salthivel,
2003), mechanochemical (Hao, 2008 as cited in Yin, 2003; Wang, 2004), reactive DC
magnetron sputtering (Hao, 2008, as cited in Lindgren, 2003; Chen, 2004), sol–gel (Hao, 2008,
as cited in Burda, 2003), solvothermal process [(Hao, 2008, as cited in Aita, 2004), calcination
of a complex of Ti ion with a nitrogen containing ligand (Hao, 2008, as cited in Sano, 2004),
calcination in nitrogen atmosphere etc.
Among the different preparation procedures, sol gel route is the preferred one because of its
endowed nature. The temperatures required for all stages of the process involved in the
conversion of sol to gel apart from densification are low, avoiding material degradation and
resulting in high purity and stoichiometry of the products. The fact that the precursor metal
alkoxides are volatile in general and thus are easily purifiable, substantiates the formation of
high purity products. Also, since the organometallic precursors involving different metals
are normally miscible with each other, a homogeneous controlled doping can be achieved
easily. In addition, during sol gel synthesis the chemical conditions are mild and thus even
biological species including enzymes and whole cells may be entrapped retaining their
functions after doping on sol gel prepared metal oxides. Besides, the formation of highly
porous and nanocrystalline materials can be achieved by sol gel method, by means of
appropriate chemical modification of the precursors, adequate control over the rates of
hydrolysis and condensation, resulting in the formation of colloid particles of suitable size,
porosity and the pore size, and thus achieving a fine control over the pore wall chemistry of
the final material. However, there are only a few reports on the anion-doped photocatalysts
prepared using wet-methods such as sol–gel and co-precipitation owing to the difficulties
involved in the procedure (Hao,2008). Still there are some reports on the N doped sol gel
titania which shows good visible light activity for the degradation of pollutants (Dewi, 2010;
Hu, 2010; Jian, 2006; Liu, 2005; Min, 2008)).
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In the previous studies, the shifting of the absorbance of TiO2 to visible light upon nitrogen
doping is explained in two ways. One proposed mechanism is the narrowing of the band
gap by mixing the N2p and O2p states. Another explanation is the existence of two
absorption edges in the UV visible spectra, the one around 400 nm, the resultant of the band
structure of original TiO2 and second one around 530 nm which is attributed to the newly
formed N2p band located above the O2p valence band. The incorporation of nonmetal
dopant atoms into the lattice structure of titania is believed to decrease the band gap, and
shift its response to the visible part of the solar spectrum (Xin & Quingquan, 2008, as cited in
Asahi, 2001; Khan, 2002; Ohno, 2004; Lin, 2007).


                                               +     band

Fig. 3. Schematic picture of reduced band gap of titania as a result of mixing of N 2p and O
2p stages

As clear from the pictorial representation, the hole and electron pair separation is small when
the electron is excited by the visible light after N doping and thus they can recombine easily,
which will reduce the efficiency of photons. Thus suppression of the recombination of hole–
electron pairs is a necessity for visible light active photocatalysts.


                          h              +     N 2P band


Fig. 4. The schematic diagram representing the shifting of TiO2 absorption to visible region
as a result of the newly formed N2P band above the TiO2 valance band
Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts
for the Degradation of Aquatic Pollutants Under Sun Light                                      161

Fig. 5. The schematic diagram showing the role of doped metal nanoparticles in the
photocatalytic activity. Metal nanoparticles act as an electron sink, supporting interfacial
charge transfer and reduce the chances for charge recombinations.

Doped metal nanoparticles are believed to suppress the recombination of photo-induced
electron-hole pairs, when they migrate from the interior of the photocatalyst to the metal
surface resulting in increased photo quantum efficiency (Xin & Quingquan, 2008, as cited in
Choi, 1994; Lin & Yu, 1998). Thus, metal nanoparticles can be considered as an electron sink,
which can promote interfacial charge transfer and consequently less charge recombinations
Thus in the present work, we are looking for a synergestic effect from both dopings. That is
the anion doping can provide the narrowing of the band gap and the noble metal
nanoparticles are suppose to suppress recombinations. Our objective is the preparation of
unsurpassed photocatalysts which are sun light active. Nano gold loaded nitrogen doped
TiO2 photocatalyst was prepared through the sol–gel route using titanium isopropoxide as
titanium source, ammonium nitrate as nitrogen precursor and chloroauric acid was used as
the precursor for gold nanoparticles. The combined doping of nano gold and nitrogen leads
to the high activity of the prepared system for the photodegradation of MB under visible
light irradiation. Here, nanogold is observed to provide substantial progress in the
photocatalytic activity compared to that of simple nitrogen doped titania for the MB
degradation under sunlight.

2. Experimental
2.1 Preparation of photocatalysts
Au-loaded N doped TiO2 nano powders were prepared by sol–gel process. The sol was
prepared following a reported procedure (Sunajadevi & Sugunan, 2004). Titanium
isopropoxide (98%, Aldrich) was used as the precursor of TiO2. 50 ml of Titanium (IV)
isopropoxide was hydrolyzed in 600 ml water containing 5 ml nitric acid. Precipitation
occurred immediately and the mixture was stirred continuously at room temperature to
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form a highly dispersed sol. To this, 4.39g ammonium nitrate was added to get the N-doped

dried at 70C. The powdered sample was then calcined at 400 C for 5h to get the yellow
titania and stirring was continued for another 4h. The sol was then aged for two days and

coloured nitrogen doped titania.
Nano gold loading: Different percentage of nanogold are loaded on loaded on N- doped TiO2
photocatalysts by deposition– precipitation method, which can provide nano-sized gold
particles with strong contact of Au particles with the support. Chloro auric acid was used as
the gold precursor. The aqueous Chloroauric acid solution(2.1x10-3M) is heated to 70 0C. Then
the pH of the solution was adjusted to 8 by dropwise addition of 0.5M NaOH solution. The
required amount of the support was added in to it with vigourous stirring. The stirring was
continued at 70C for 2h. The pH was maintained as 8 throughout the preparation. It was then
cooled to room temperature, filtered and washed with distilled water to make it free from

C for 5 h. The catalytic systems thus produced are designated as NTiO2, 1AuNTiO2 and
chloride ions. Subsequently it was dried at 80C for overnight followed by calcination at 200

2AuNTiO2 for nitrogen doped TiO2 with no gold loading, 1% and 2% Au loading respectively.

2.2 Catalyst characterization
XRD patterns of the samples were recorded for 2θ between 10 and 80° on a Bruker AXS D8
Advance diffractometer employing a scanning rate of 0.02°/S with Cu Kα radiation
(λ=1.5418). The FTIR spectra were recorded in Thermo Nicolet, Avatar 370 spectrometer in
the region 400–4,000 cm-1. TEM photographs of the prepared systems were taken in JEOL
JEM 2100 Electromicroscope. SEM pictures are collected using a JEOL Model JSM - 6390LV.

2.3 Photocatalytic degradation studies
Photocatalytic degradation of Methyleneblue (MB) was done by the use of solar energy. All
outdoor experiments were carried out in closed Pyrex flasks at room temperature with
stirring. The irradiation was performed on sunny days, from 11.00 to 14.00 h when solar
intensity fluctuations were minimum. The samples were immediately centrifuged and the
quantitative determination of dye was determined using colorimeter (CL 157 - ELICO)
before and after the irradiation. Experiments were repeated to get better results. The MB
concentraction of 5 mg/L mmol at 2h of exposure to sunlight are used for all measurements
except for time study.

3. Results and discussion
With an objective to develop a visible light or solar energy responsive photocatalyst,
nitrogen doping is done on titania where ammonium nitrate is used as the N precursor. N
dopant is added to the stable sol and with gelation the development of a yellow colour is
observed whereas introduction of gold changes the colour to violetish ash. With the increase
in gold loading, the colour was found to deepen. The different catalytic systems prepared
are characterized using various techniques.

3.1 Photocatalyst characterization
It is well established that the electron and hole recombination can be suppressed by increasing
the crystallinity of the Semiconductor, minimizing the crystal defects which act as
Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts
for the Degradation of Aquatic Pollutants Under Sun Light                                               163

recombination centers (Tsugio, 2006, as cited in Sclafani, 1990). Our objective here is the
preparation of fine particles of small band gap semiconductor with high degree of
Crystallinity, which can make photocatalysts that are capable of showing visible light activity.
The crystalline nature of the present samples were analyzed using XRD analysis. Both anatase
as well rutile phase were visible in the samples where anatase phase was the predominant one.
The foremost peak corresponding to (1 0 1) reflections of the anatase phase of TiO2 was well
evident at the angle of 25.28◦, as well as the minor peaks were appeared around 37.8◦, 48.0◦,
53.8◦ and 55.1◦. The major peak of the (1 1 0) diffraction of rutile was observed at the angle of
27.50◦, whereas the minor peaks appeared at 36.15◦, 41.33◦, 54.44◦, 56.76◦, 62.89◦ and 69.17◦.
Weight ratios of each phase were calculated using the following equation:

                                                Wr =
                                                       0.884A A +A R
Here AA represents the integrated intensity of the anatase (1 0 1) peak and AR the integrated
intensity of the rutile (1 1 0) peak (jirapat, 2009, as cited in Gribb, 1997). Increase in gold
loading increases the anatase to rutile ratio. This observation is apparently is surprising
since we are adding gold precursor to the calcined gel. Thus it is expected that the 2AuTiO2
can show maximum photoactivity, since anatase is considered as the most photocatalytically
active form of TiO2. TiO2 obtained by following the same procedure without any N doping
is also showing the existence of both anatase and rutile as the crystalline phases (XRD is not
shown) (Sunajadevi & Sugunan, 2004). The crystallite size of different systems were
calculated using Scherrer equation and the results are provided in table 1.

                                         Weight fractions of phase (%)            Crystal size (nm)
                                           Anatase            Rutile             Anatase       Rutile
            1% AuNTiO2                       65.74            34.26                6.17         11.62
            2% AuNTiO2                       86.78            13.22                6.98         7.71
Table 1. Anatase to rutile ratio and crystallite size of gold loaded catalysts
                  Intensity (a.u)

                                                                                 2AuTiO 2

                                                                             AuNTiO 2

                                                       2  (degrees)
                                    10   20    30       40    50       60   70       80     90

Fig. 6. XRD patterns of different systems
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The surface morphology of different systems was analyzed using SEM. In Fig. 7, SEM
micrographs of 1AuNTiO2          and 2AuNTiO2 are given. All samples appeared as
agglomerations of smaller particles with a high tendency for crystallization.



Fig. 7. SEM images of the prepared systems

The TEM micrographs of the photocatalysts show that the gold particles are highly
dispersed on the surface of N doped TiO2 and the mean diameter of gold particles estimated
from the TEM images are less than 5nm. In the case of 1AuNTiO2, only few gold particles
are visible and its size is also found to be smaller when compared to that in 2AuNTiO2. At
higher gold loading of 2%, there is competent dispersion for the nanoparticles and the gold
particles are visible as sharp dark spots over the gray coloured support. Furthermore, the
Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts
for the Degradation of Aquatic Pollutants Under Sun Light                                 165

lattice fringes of the crystallographic planes of anatase and rutlies are found to be visible,
consistent with the XRD patterns. The visible TiO2 particles are more or less spherical in
shape and are found to be of lower size of around 10 – 20 nm diameter


                                                                 50 nm


                                                                 50 nm


                                                                 50 nm

Fig. 8. TEM images of the prepared systems
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In the FTIR spectra of the systems shown in Fig. 9, a broad peak seen around 3400 cm-1 can
be assigned to stretching vibration mode of the OH groups within the TiO2 sol–gel. The
corresponding bending vibration band was observed at 1637 cm-1. The TiO2–OH bonds arise
from the hydrolysis reactions occurring during the gelling of the titanium alkoxide. In the
low energy region of the spectrum, the bands around 500 cm-1 can be assigned to bending
vibrations of Ti–O bonds.
            % Transmittance

                                             2% AuNTiO2

                                             1% Au NTiO2

                                              N TiO2

                              4000   3500   3000   2500     2000   1500   1000   500
                                        Wavenumber (cm )
Fig. 9. FTIR spectra of the prepared systems

3.2 Photoactivity results
Photodegradation of MB was done to get the information on the pollutant degrading
capability of the present systems. The reaction variables were optimized using 2AuNTiO2 to
achieve the conditions for maximum degradation.

3.2.1 Effect of catalyst dosage
A series of experiments were carried out to optimize the catalyst loading by varying the
amount catalyst from 0.05g – 0.20g/50ml MB solution of concentration 5 mg/l. The
degradation results for 2 h irradiation are shown in Fig. 10. The rate of degradation increased
linearly with increase in catalyst weight from 0.05g to 0. 10g which then decreases with further
increase in the amount of catalyst used. The initial enhancement in photoactivity with catalyst
weight may be due to the increase in number of photons absorbed and the number of dye
molecules adsorbed on the catalyst molecules. Also the density of the catalyst particles in the
area of illumination increases with the catalyst dosage. When the amount of catalyst is
exceeding certain limit, the dye molecules available are not sufficient for adsorption and hence
the additional catalyst powder is not taking part in the photocatalytic activity and
consequently the rate becomes independent of the amount of catalyst beyond certain limit. It is
reported that the increase in opacity of the solution at high catalyst dosage decreases the
penetration of light inside the solution with a consequent decrease in the photoreduction of the
Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts
for the Degradation of Aquatic Pollutants Under Sun Light                                 167

dye (Binitha, 2011, as cited in Maruthamuthu, 1989). Thus, the optimum amount of catalyst
needed to get maximum degradation of pollutant in the present case is 0.1 g.

3.2.2 Effect of volume of MB
The influence of volume of MB on degradation rate was studied by varying the volume of
the dye from 25 to 100 ml at a constant TiO2 loading of 2 g/L for 2 h exposure to sunlight. It
was observed from Fig. 11, that the degradation rate increased from 25 ml to 50 ml and then
decreased with further increase in the amount of dye. The absorption of light by the
pollutant may be dominated at higher volumes which in turn decrease the absorbance of
light by the catalyst causing a reduction in the photocatalytic activity.

Fig. 10. Effect of catalyst dosage on the degradation of 50 ml of 5 mg/L MB for 2h irradiation

3.2.3 Effect of time
The degradation of 50 ml of 5mg/L MB was investigated by changing the irradiation time
from 1 h to 3 h and the activity over the three catalytic systems is plotted in Fig. 12. It is

Fig. 11. Effect of volume of MB solution on the degradation of 5 mg/L MB for 2h irradiation
using 2g/L catalyst
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observed that the degradation reaches 100 % within 3 h of exposure to sunlight in the case of
2AuNTiO2. This system is thus found to be capable for complete degradation of dye
pollutants within this short duration of 3 h solar irradiation. Lower loading of gold (1%) also
showed improvement in the photocatalytic activity when compared to N doped TiO2
without metal nanoparticles. All the three catalytic systems studied showed far better
activity than undoped titania which showed very low photodegradation of MB (not
included in the figure) , less that 10% even after keeping for 3 h under sunlight.

Fig. 12. Effect of Time on the degradation of 50 ml of 5 mg/L MB over a catalyst dosage of 2g/L

4. Conclusion
In conclusion, we are reporting the successful preparation of highly efficient photocatalytic
systems, N-doped TiO2 and Au nanoparticle incorportated N doped TiO2. The
photodegradation of aquatic pollutant methylene blue over N-doped TiO2 and Au
nanoparticle incorportated N doped TiO2 catalysts were investigated and the catalytic
performances were compared. Visible light activity was achieved for TiO2 upon anion
doping. It was found that Au nanoparticle loading over TiO2 is capable of improving the
photocatalytic activity of N doped TiO2 to a greater extent and the inserted metal
nanoparticles are believed to act as electron sinks to prevent the recombination of electron-
hole pairs. In addition, X-ray diffraction patterns reveal the suppression of rutile phase with
increase in the percentage of gold loading which also can be considered as a favorable factor
to obtain superior photoactivity. The inserted gold particles were found to have spherical
morphology of less than 5 nm dimension as evident from TEM micrographs. The 2AuNTiO2
catalytic system was found to be the best among the three showing complete removal of the
pollutant within 3 h exposure to sunlight.

5. Acknowledgment
The authors acknowledge the UKM, the grant number UKM-OUP-NBT-27-118/2009 for the
financial support. STIC, CUSAT, Kochi, India is acknowledged for XRD, FTIR and SEM
Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts
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                                      Solar Power
                                      Edited by Prof. Radu Rugescu

                                      ISBN 978-953-51-0014-0
                                      Hard cover, 378 pages
                                      Publisher InTech
                                      Published online 15, February, 2012
                                      Published in print edition February, 2012

A wide variety of detail regarding genuine and proprietary research from distinguished authors is presented,
ranging from new means of evaluation of the local solar irradiance to the manufacturing technology of
photovoltaic cells. Also included is the topic of biotechnology based on solar energy and electricity generation
onboard space vehicles in an optimised manner with possible transfer to the Earth. The graphical material
supports the presentation, transforming the reading into a pleasant and instructive labor for any interested
specialist or student.

How to reference
In order to correctly reference this scholarly work, feel free to copy and paste the following:

Zahira Yaakob, Anila Gopalakrishnan, Silija Padikkaparambil, Binitha N. Narayanan and Resmi M.
Ramakrishnan (2012). Nanogold Loaded, Nitrogen Doped TiO2 Photocatalysts for the Degradation of Aquatic
Pollutants Under Sun Light, Solar Power, Prof. Radu Rugescu (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0014-0, InTech,
Available from:

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